Content Strategy

You know how important it is to have good content on your site. But you also know how difficult it is to get the kind of content that keeps your visitors coming back for more. This article will help you develop content that inspires a loyal following.

Content is King! You’ve heard this a million times and truly, content is king. The number one reason people visit and come back to a website is because of content. Why are you on SEO Chat right now? Content. Even if you sell products, merchandise or services, a subset of buyers prefers to see content first.

Content is all about loyalty. If users find your content helpful and useful enough, they will come back for more, looking for another hit. It’s like cocaine – good content gets users addicted quickly, and gives them the kind of addiction that is hard to break. For you, that’s a good thing.

Personally, I read several publications daily on the topic of SEO and search engines. If those publications stopped producing content, I would quickly switch to someone else and rarely visit their websites. In other words, that old saw about "fresh and quality content” is still the best strategy.

Creating fresh content is easy. Creating quality content is challenging. Constantly creating quality content (aka fresh and quality) is even more challenging. In this article I outline content creation strategies to assist with the dilemma.

Main Content Framework

In this section I will outline the content framework strategy I have successfully used for our website. The bounce rate was reduced by 20 percent, from 70 percent to 50 percent (which is a good rate), and the average number of page views was increased from 1.20 to 2.32. It’s nothing special, but it did improve results.

First of all, what is main content? This is a term that I personally use to describe the main content on the website. It is the copy writing and articles located on the MAIN pages of the website, accessible from the main menu. It is the content that users see when they land on the index page and browse through different sections. For example, I may go from a Google search with the keyword “insurance” to land on a web site’s index page. A few seconds later I might click on the “car insurance” section of the website and read further.

The difference between main content and regular content is that main content is usually the first thing users see when they land on your website (unless you feature blog snippets on the home page). Thus, it is vitally important to develop very high quality articles/sales letters that will make users stick.

To be successful you have to know what the market wants. This is business 101. The same applies to building a content framework. To be successful, you have to know what the searchers want, and then give it to them. In the book Waiting For Your Cat To Bark, Jeffrey and Brian Eisenberg classify visitors into four categories:

  • Accidentals. Some find you accidentally and are not in the market for your goods or services, certainly not now and maybe not ever.

  • Knows Exactly. These people know exactly what they want, down to the model number (or its equivalent).

  • Knows Approximately. Next are the people who know approximately what they want. They are in the market to buy, but they have not made their final decision on exactly what they want to buy.

  • Just Browsing. And then there are those people who are in “browsing” mode. They’re window shoppers who aren’t necessarily planning to take any specific action.

When developing your content, consider three visitor types: Knows Exactly, Knows Approximately and Just Browsing.

Next, you must find what it is those visitors are looking for. There are several ways to do this.

  • Surveys – I find that surveys have an extremely poor return rate and usually do not contain anything that you can’t find out using other methods. You may have been more successful with surveys, but they did not work for me.

  • Analytics – Your analytics has hidden treasure inside: keyword referrals. Dig out ALL keyword referrals, be it 40 keywords or 4000. (I realize that keyword referral data is limited to content that you have on the website; however, there is still a wealth of data there).

  • Keyword Research Tools – Keywords, especially long tail keywords, show intention, and it is our business to find out the intentions of searchers and develop content accordingly.

Export all your keywords into a spreadsheet. Open a Word document and start a two-cell table. From the exported spreadsheet, copy keywords to the Word document that show intention or a question. Use one row per intention/question. You will always get 1 – 30 variations of the same intention/question expressed by different keywords. Use the second column of the table to describe keywords briefly.

Example:

Keywords

Description

applying for a mortgage canada

approval process for getting a mortgage

Want to learn how to apply / approval process

canada best mortgage rates comparisons

compare interest rates

different mottage interest rates

find out best interest rates

Want to find out and compare rates from different lenders

bad credit mortgage

Want to get / learn information about bad credit mortgages.

Go through the same process with keyword research tools. The trick with online tools is that you have to dig into each keyword to find long tail searches that contain questions/intentions. The process is lengthy, but do it anyway.

Here are the tools I use for this purpose:

  • Google Keyword Tool – does not show many long tail keywords, but you can still find a lot of data.

  • Wordtracker – plenty of long tail data with the free version.

  • Keyword discovery – has a lot of long tail keywords, but to get quality you need to pay (the free database is dirty).

Once you analyze both analytics data and keyword research data, simply look at the “Description” column to know what your market wants to see on the website. Of course the method is not foolproof, and you might miss some intentions; however, you will know more about the content that market wants than your competitors.

Other ways to get ideas for your content framework include asking customer service people (a great source), sales people and yourself (if you’re in DIRECT contact with customers). Don’t trust market research companies; their data is usually sloppy or very expensive.

Now, simply write content that addresses uncovered intentions and answers questions you learned from all the research. You will find yourself talking about subjects you would rather avoid (negatives of your product/service). Go ahead and do it. Customers will love you for it.

From the book The Cluetrain Manifesto:

Symantec took a similarly creative approach when they first launched their CafÈ product, a suite of programming tools for Java developers. They had one person virtually living in the public support newsgroups. He responded to questions, fielded tech support requests, and generally got himself known as a very straight shooter about Symantecís products. He was only one person, but he was almost single-handedly responsible for the developer community’s positive take on Symantec. He wasn’t there to promote, but strictly to assist. He gave honest answers to hard questions, acknowledged product shortcomings, and painted an honest, open picture of the product’s strengths and weaknesses. The developer community’s collective opinion of Symantec soared.

The above takes quite some time and effort, but the rewards are worth it. In the end you will have a website with:

  • A lower bounce rate than your competition.

  • More satisfied visitors who found answers to their questions (and more potential customers as a result).

  • More page views.

There is directed more to actually getting the sale, but creating a strong content framework based on solid research is the first step. It will help you capture visitors at different stages of their buying process.

There are easier ways to develop content. One of the classic ones is to hire a copywriter to do the pages. The problem is that copywriters know little of your subject and simply browse other websites and create similar content, spicing their writing up with “we are the best,” “serving customers,” “been in the industry for X amount of years” and so forth. I know, because I sit next a copywriter in the office and do some writing myself.

You can also hire a pro-sales copywriter to do a sales letter, but we’re talking $5,000 minimum here (for a good one).

You can buy content from content brokers. This is called licensed content. Expect other websites to have duplicate versions of articles, unless you buy exclusive rights.

You can hire a writer to work for you full-time, making sure that he or she is very familiar with the industry. This way you won’t get generic articles as you would from outsourcing, but quite detailed pieces that actually have value.

Don’ts of Quality Content

Don’t write just for the sake of being “fresh” (I do this on some blogs and it doesn’t work). Rather, spend a week if you have to on one quality piece and then release it. If it is good, you will be able to attract some incoming links. You won’t be as fresh as you would like to, but at least your articles will be of high quality. This is a strategy used by UseIt.com. Jakob doesn’t post every day, but when he does it’s worth reading.

Make sure your words are spelled correctly. With spelling checkers available, there is really no excuse — and your visitors won’t respect you if they catch you misspelling words. 

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